News Briefs

Qualified Health Claims for Omega-3 Fatty Acids

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced a qualified health claim for reduced risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) on conventional foods that contain the omega-3 fatty acids eiscosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

Typically, EPA and DHA are contained in oily fish, such as salmon, lake trout, tuna, and herring. Although these fatty acids are not essential to the diet, scientific evidence indicates that they may help reduce CHD.

A qualified health claim on a conventional food must be supported by credible scientific evidence. Based on a systematic evaluation of the available scientific data, FDA is announcing a qualified health claim for EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids. Although this research is not conclusive, FDA intends to exercise its enforcement discretion with respect to the following qualified health claim:

Supportive but not conclusive research shows that consumption of EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. One serving of [name of food] provides [x] grams of EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids. [See nutrition information for total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol content.]

In 2000, FDA announced a similar qualified health claim for dietary supplements containing EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids and the reduced risk of CHD. FDA recommends that consumers not exceed more than a total of 3 g/d of EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids, with no more than 2 g/d from a dietary supplement.

Herbal Cholesterol Medicine May Break Down Prescription Drugs

Researchers at the University of Kansas in Lawrence have discovered that a cholesterol-lowering herbal drug also produces an unwanted side effect: It accelerates the breakdown of prescription drugs that fight the effects of AIDS and cancer.

Experiments showed that guggulsterone, the active ingredient in the herbal drug gugulipid, turns on a cell receptor called PXR. This, in turn, triggers a liver enzyme that breaks down almost 60% of the prescription drugs on the market. The results were published in the August Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics.

Drugs affected by guggulsterone include AZT, anticancer agents, and cholesterol-lowering statins. The liver enzyme also can turn some chemicals that do not cause cancer into carcinogens, the researchers say.

The PXR cell receptor is one of three that guggulsterone stimulates. Earlier studies had shown that guggulsterones lower cholesterol by turning down the activity of a receptor known as FXR. The researchers decided to experiment with the herbal gugulipid, which they bought at a Lawrence health food store, and with the pure form, guggulsterone, to see whether other receptors also were implicated in its effect on the body. The two other receptors activated by guggulsterone in the study were the estrogen receptor and the progesterone receptor.

Maximizing Health Benefits of Drinking Tea

The October Harvard Women’s Health Watch is helping readers get the most health benefits out of their cups of tea. Tea’s health benefits are due largely to its high content of flavonoids—plant-derived antioxidants. Green tea is the best food source of catechins, which are more powerful than vitamins C and E in halting oxidative damage to cells and appear to have other disease-fighting properties. Studies have found an association between consuming green tea and a reduced risk for several cancers, including, skin, breast, lung, colon, esophageal, and bladder.

Benefits for regular consumers of green and black teas include a reduced risk for heart disease. The antioxidants in green, black, and oolong teas can help block the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, increase HDL cholesterol, and improve artery function. A study published recently in the Archives of Internal Medicine showed a 46%-65% reduction in hypertension risk in regular consumers of oolong or green tea, compared to non-tea drinkers.

Here are some tips from the article on how to get the most out of tea-drinking:

• Drink a cup of tea several times a day to absorb antioxidants. In green-tea drinking cultures, the usual amount is three cups per day.

• Allow tea to steep 3-5 minutes to bring out catechins.

• Freshly brewed tea is the best source of catechins and other flavonoids. Decaffeinated, bottled ready-to-drink, and instant teas have less of these compounds.

• Tea can impede the absorption of iron from fruits and vegetables. Adding lemon or milk or drinking tea between meals will counteract this problem.